It has been severally observed that some communities seem to have more of the entrepreneurial gene than others. I possess no capability to confirm or dispute that. I will however join in observing that Kenyans of Asian and Somali origin tend to do well in business. Similarly, there are some communities in Kenya that would appear to be more entrepreneurial than others. If you find any researchers ask them to delve into this. What I know without much research is that your family background has an effect on how easy you get started or excel. This will inform the gist of this article.
A facilitator at an event I attended once asked those in attendance to lift up their hands if they were bringing up their children to be entrepreneurs and none did. It seemed to most that we hadn’t looked at our children with eyes of an entrepreneur before. This is because we were conditioned to become employees and not job creators. We are taken to school to study and get jobs. Even from early age we are challenged to become lawyers, engineers, bankers, pilots etc. Partly because these are our failed dreams as parents, we still want to perpetuate them through our kids.
If we parented for entrepreneurship then we would solve most of the problems with African entrepreneurship. Many people have tried and actually succeeded alot in entrepreneurship but the biggest problem is transitioning those businesses to the second and subsequent generations. It takes a lot of sacrifice and learning to establish a business and chaperon it to maturity. Sadly, the godfathers of Kenyan business do not prepare for a time they are not around. They hardly bring up their children inside the businesses and it is always done in secrecy. They hardly trust their children with the money or even decision making. Not even their wives. So, when such business people pass on, their businesses are also orphaned and without competent and experienced inheritors to survive the business .whoever is left behind hardly understands the business, its partners, suppliers, buyers, competitors, lenders etc. It becomes an affair of starting again. A monumental task by all means, almost always ending up in sad failures.
Exposure and value system
Isn’t it also funny, that even the successful business people still take their kids to school to become all those professional sounding titles and not entrepreneurs? A ‘Mhindi’ prepares his kids for business from early on. You always find their kids in the shop counters, cash tills and factory floors. They get to interact with the business and money from early on, so that it doesn’t confuse them when the time comes. They are taken to school to learn how to run their businesses. By the time the children meet up in college, the ones trained on entrepreneurship will always be thinking of business whereas the rest will be racing to spend the money on parties and ostentations.
When you know you are bringing them up for business, you will try work on their character and value systems. You will try to encourage them to be creative and daring. To identify a problem and attempt a solution. You will teach them what money is and how to save it up. How to make smart buys and investments. Such kids will grow responsible and not turn into drunkards or druggies when they grow up and start interacting with money. If for every little mistake you beat them up, and castigate them for every little failure then you are bringing up someone who isn’t fit for business. I see them every day, guys that are afraid of taking a loan, because they might be unable to repay. How is that your first thought of a loan? Failure to repay and its repercussions?
Perception of wealth
It would help if from an early age, parents work on expanding their understanding the concept of wealth. Unfortunately, for us it is still all about land and houses. We save up and take loans to buy lands and even build up high value houses. We invest so much in such property where we get only to spend not more than one night a month at best. All these when we can’t raise the 100k needed to set ourselves onto the road to entrepreneurial kingdom. Incredibly, we even at times keep paid servants to mind these homes. Yes, you create a job or two that hardly contribute value to our future wealth.
When you know you are bringing up an entrepreneur you will not only try to save up for their capital but also will be psychologically prepared for the time when they will come to you for that title deed to be security for their start up or expansion capital. You will know their dream in life and be ready to support it. Do you know how many guys are hustling up and about trying to find a capital of 20 or 50k for their biz when their parents have tens of cows and other assets that could easily be liquidated to support their dreams? You might be one of them. Sad, isn’t it?
In business just like in life, it pays to know people. If your children are destined for business then it is necessary to invest in the social capital they will require then. The right connections with mentors, potential buyers and referrals. Getting into businesses with such a network is much easier rather than having to build one yourself. So you see, it’s really not so much the skin color or the quality of the hair, it’s not even the county of origin, but the grounding one gets and the environment that shapes them to appreciate entrepreneurship. It can happen regardless of background.
Into the future
Now it’s upon us to take up the challenge. Some of us are parents or on the way to parenthood already. Welcome to entrepreneurship. And please come along with your little ones. The biggest invitation here is, let us think of setting up businesses for them. Businesses that they will find ready to absorb them instead of going through hustling like we do. Wouldn’t it have been better if you inherited a business worth 1M from your parent as they retire? Let’s make it happen.
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